Beth McDonough

How to hand-raise

First, you must practice on gilding metal, which
behaves more like silver than copper ever does. Then

[but they have given me the most precious thing first. Having cats or dogs or bloody fish, or even relatives and friends – none of that could possibly have readied me for this]

take your sheet of 12 gauge.
Pierce a perfect sterling disc.
File any rags away.
Stone the surface. Take a 2b pencil, draw
concentric circles, half a centimetre apart. Plot

[but I have no way of predicting what will happen. I cannot tell what falls, what climbs, what swims will lie ahead. I cannot tell]

every hammered round.
Cut an aluminium profile.
Be sure to use it – every single course.  Sit

[what profile? What shape? He is like no-one else. He is him]

properly positioned.
Ensure your former is clasped
tight in the vice. It must not move at all. Strike

[there is no certainty in these moves]

your silver, steadily, precisely. Aim
every hammer blow at that exact same spot.
Work with a steady pace. Do not
attempt to compress your metal quickly or

[there is no even rhythm. Some weeks flame by in a million flaring seconds sharped in sore bright sparks. Some crawl dungeoned into eons. Nothing comes in measured lines]

your disc will surely crack.

After the first, and every course,
anneal your piece dull red.
play the flame for three full minutes. Quench

[how can I soothe these slip plains, align this into workable order? Now, I am not saying malleable, no. What do I do to make him flexible for all that runs ahead?]

in the waiting bucket.
pickle off all the sulphides and the oxides in a bath –
of sulphuric acid – ten per cent.  Wash

[there is no way to strip off  darkness, no means to walk open, unstained into the hit of hard ahead]

your object. Dry it well.
Raise every course. Coax every line
from the centre to the outer. Always caulk
back the edge. Build it up
thickened, strong.
Listen to your metal.
Never let it crack.

[but there are fractures everywhere. How can I fill this damaged space? Everything is opened out to air. I cannot see it heal]

When you see your form complete, check
that it matches the profile you’ve prepared. Select

[this is another shape. This will not fit. Nor is mine the only hand in this]

your planishing hammer. Cosset it well.
Keep it papered to a mirror finish.

[I do not want to see my face]

Now watch. Glance this hammer’s fall
across the form.

[yes, every impact builds]



Beth McDonough trained in Silversmithing at GSA, completing her M.Litt at Dundee University . Writer in Residence at Dundee Contemporary Arts 2014-16, her poetry appears in Gutter, The Interpreter’s House and Antiphon and elsewhere and her reviews in DURA. Handfast (with Ruth Aylett, May 2016) charts family experiences – Aylett’s of dementia and McDonough’s of autism.


Editor’s Note

I defy anyone to read this poem, and this bio, and not have some questions for this wonderful poet. It’s more than we could do. We simply had to contact Beth and find out some more about her silversmithing, her poetry reviewing, her writing process, her use of riddles and plans for funerals. If you’d like to read more about Beth McDonough, and we highly recommend that you do, please click here for our first ever poetry spotlight.

Editor’s Note

The editor of Tales From The Forest (one Rose Fortune) couldn’t resist this particular theme. This is a story titled Where Monsters Live, and it should really live with the rest of the creatures.


Monsters predate humans. This is our first problem – the monsters were here first. By our own laws, they should have the right to the territory which they inhabit. They have marked it as theirs, they have built homes for their children and they have set up doctrines to live by. They are almost as civilised as we are. They are not savages.

Admittedly, some humans have in the past shown no issue with taking territory that was not theirs to begin with. The conquistadors did it, and were richly rewarded for it. Lands were named after discoverers who only succeeded in discovering a land which their flag had not yet lived in.

The second problem with monsters is, we do not understand them. Or, to put it another way, the problem with monsters is that we do not know how to fight them. They lived peacefully around us for so long, simply staying out of humanity’s way and living in our cast-off lands and our dwindling forests and our holes. Caves uninhabitable for humans produced entire neighbourhoods of monsters, of creatures with scales where they should not have scales and claws where there should not be claws. This was all well and good for quite a long time. But in recent years and recent decades, mankind has become more and more adventurous. Every hole we find is excavated or scuba dived into, or has torches shone into it, or gets turned into a tourist attraction in some exceptionally uninteresting towns.

Every section of the sea that was previously undiscovered has been set upon with ships and nets and harpoons. The air was colonised. The Grand Canyon was filled in to accommodate seven new motorways. The ground is mined and the wind is captured. The old green open spaces are built upon, and forests finally became extinct some time ago. We are left with a world where humans have taken the land, and the air, and the sea, and the earth. And once the last flag was planted and the last tree was felled, the monsters came out from the shadows.

If they attacked, we might begin to understand the situation. We have guns in 4,294 shapes and sizes and can harness the power of a tsunami if the weather conditions are right. We have bear-traps that might be effective on some of the smaller beasts. We have nets that are made from the end of the Amazon. Should we fight, there might be a chance.

But instead the monsters are suing. The most humanoid of the creatures was nominated to wear a person’s suit and draw up an official complaint against the human race. Tensions were heightened when the thing turned up in court wearing a person as a suit, but it was called a “faux pas” by a very forgiving or very frightened judge.

The complaint was accepted as valid by the same slightly shaking judge. Many are against the colonisation of the elements and the destruction of nature on the whole, so the monsters have plenty of support for their case. A new difficulty has been presented in trying to find a single person who will defend humankind and take the blame for the state the world now exists in. It’s essentially thought that the person who puts up their hands to say “I will be the defendant in the case of the peacefully co-existing monsters whose lands are now taken without their agreement” will have to also come up with a compelling reason to keep the land from the creatures, and to explain why the Sahara is now a lagoon.

If the case is lost by men and women, we are not sure what will happen next. People do not want to fight the monsters because very few people believe we can win against the bogeyman. The monsters will not go back to the shadows, because we have left none for them. We could attempt restoration, but it would be an arduous job to reintroduce trees to the world and re-terraform the earth. We also don’t necessarily want to let the ozone layer out of its box again.

There are those groups of people who are expecting to be banished. It might be the best fate we can accomplish, given how significantly we are outnumbered by the monsters. Or rather, the ratio is approximately 1:1, but that hardly seems like a fair fight when one side has the added benefits of flight, talons and possible magic/mystical powers/ability to blend into the night. It’s possible that our best course of action would simply be to leave the planet to the creatures from the darkest parts of the world, and make our way to another planet where we would, maybe, hopefully, be truly alone. The first edict of the new world will surely be to light up every shadow.